SINGAPORE: Owners of drones should be careful not to overcharge the batteries for the gadgets, as these could turn into a fire hazard, an expert told Channel NewsAsia.
Drone batteries that were left to charge overnight have been ruled as a "major suspect” in the case of a fatal fire that broke out at 6A Parry Avenue last June, a Coroner’s Court heard on Thursday (Feb 11). The fire had killed a 64-year-old Singaporean woman and an Australian guest in her home.
Investigations showed that the living room had been crowded by an assortment of electrical devices and furniture. Three drone batteries had also been placed on the carpeted floor of the living room to charge overnight.
Associate Professor Madhavi Srinivasan from Nanyang Technological University’s School of Materials Science and Engineering said it is not advisable having lots of other electrical equipment around when charging batteries.
"When charging a battery, to have too many electrical equipment around it is not advisable. Because any small event that is starting in the battery can actually be controllable, but if it spreads to other electrical equipment, it would be difficult," she said.
She also gave two examples of how a battery could overcharge. The first is if a battery from one product is paired with a charger from another. Chargers usually come with mechanisms to prevent overcharging, so using one that is not meant for the actual product could cause overcharging.
Batteries also typically contain a battery management circuit chip to stop products from overcharging, even if the power is left on. In the scenario where the chip wears out or gets damaged, then it could stop working. Should overcharging occur when the chip wears out or gets damaged, it could cause a fire, the professor said.
In the Parry Avenue case, the drone batteries in question were the products of the house owner and his business partner, the Australian man who died in the blaze.
Another drone maker Garuda Robotics said its customers must understand all safety procedures before they can leave with their products.
Said CEO of Garuda Robotics, Mark Yong: "Part of the regulations that we enforce as a company is to make sure that all operators of our drone solutions are trained on proper handling, proper safety procedures and proper use of our equipment.
“That includes a step-by-step process that they have to follow when charging and using batteries. This training is undertaken in our premises, and we make sure that all of the operators of this equipment are certified to use the equipment because they can follow our procedures properly."
The company also distributes fire-resistant bags to all of its customers. They are supposed to use them when charging the drone's battery. So, if it does catch fire, the bag will help contain it before it can spread. Their customers are also advised to use the bag to transport their batteries.